|Full name||Darlington Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Quakers, Darlo|
|Ground||The Northern Echo Darlington Arena, Darlington
(Restricted to 10,000[A])
|2008–09||League Two, 12th|
Darlington Football Club are an English football team based in the town of Darlington and play in Football League Two. The club's main nickname is The Quakers in reference to the religious movement that had a historic influence on the town. Darlington have remained in the bottom tier of the league since 1992; they have played in the division for the second most number of consecutive seasons behind Rochdale. Their local rivals are Hartlepool United, York City and Carlisle United.
In July 1883, a meeting was called in Darlington Grammar School to address concerns that so few Darlington-based football clubs were entering the major competition in the region, the Durham Challenge Cup. The meeting agreed with the view expressed by the Darlington & Stockton Times newspaper, that there was "no club, urban or rural, sufficiently powerful to worthily represent Darlington", decided to form a new club, and elected one Charles Samuel Craven, a local engineer, as secretary. Darlington Football Club duly entered the Durham Challenge Cup, reached the final in their first season, and won the trophy in 1885. The following season Darlington entered the FA Cup for the first time,only to lose 8–0 to Grimsby Town. Craven was instrumental in the formation of the Northern League in 1889. Darlington were one of the founder members, and went on to win the league title in 1896 and 1900; they reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup in the same two seasons.
The club turned professional in 1908 and joined the North Eastern League. The 1910–11 season saw Darlington reach the last 16 of the FA Cup, progressing through five qualifying rounds to lose to Swindon Town in the Third Round Proper, and two years later they won the North Eastern League. Ground improvements begun before the First World War left the club in financial difficulty during it; the chairman of Darlington Forge Albion financed the completion of the East Stand and cleared the debts, allowing them to continue to compete. When competitive football resumed after the war, Darlington finished second in the North Eastern League, and were champions for a second time the following year. This victory was well timed, as it coincided with the formation of the Northern Section of the Football League's Third Division, which Darlington were invited to join.
Their first season in the Third Division was a successful one and they ended up in second place. Three years later, in 1924–25, they were champions and won promotion to the Football League Second Division. Their 15th-place finish in 1926 remains, as of 2010, Darlington's best League performance, but they were relegated back to the Third Division in 1927, where they remained until the Second World War put an end to competitive football. They came as high as third in 1929–30, but twice had to apply for re-election to the League, in 1932–33 and 1936–37, after finishing in last place in the section. In 1934, they enjoyed their first success in a nationally-organised cup competition, defeating Stockport County 4–3 at Old Trafford to win the Football League Third Division North Cup, and reached the final again two years later, this time losing 2–1 at home to Chester.
Soon after the Football Association gave permission for competitive matches to be played under floodlights, Darlington beat Carlisle United 3–1 in the first floodlit FA Cup match between Football League clubs, a replay held at St James' Park, Newcastle United's ground, in November 1955.[B] The 1957–58 season saw the club equal their previous best FA Cup run, reaching the last 16 by defeating Chelsea, Football League champions only three years earlier, in the Fourth Round. After letting slip a three-goal lead at Stamford Bridge, Darlington won the replay 4–1 after extra time, described as "a most meritorious win, earned by a combination of sound tactics and an enthusiasm that Chelsea never equalled" by The Times' correspondent, who felt it "surprising that extra time was necessary, for Darlington always seemed to have the match well in hand". In the League, Darlington's fourth place in 1948–49 was their only top-half finish in the first twelve seasons after the war, and when the regional sections of the Third Division were merged, they were allocated to the new Fourth Division.
The Supporters' Club raised £20,000 to pay for a roof at one end of the Feethams ground and for floodlights, which were first used on 19 September 1960. Later that night, the West Stand burned down. Darlington's attendance record, of 21,023 against Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup fourth round, was set two months later. Under the management of Lol Morgan, they won promotion to the Third Division in 1966. A crowd of 16,000 watched the draw against Torquay United on the last day of the season which ensured they finished as runners-up, but they were relegated the following year.
Darlington reached the quarter-finals of the 1968 League Cup; drawn away to Brian Clough's Derby County, they took the lead, only to lose 5–4. During the 1970s the club had to apply for re-election to the League five times, and by 1982 they were facing a financial crisis which they survived thanks to fundraising efforts in the town. Three years later they won promotion by finishing third in the league under manager Cyril Knowles. Darlington spent two seasons in the Third Division; the 13th-place finish in 1986 was the highest position they achieved in the Football League since the introduction of the four-division structure in 1958, but they were relegated the following season.
Though Brian Little's appointment as manager in February 1989, failed to stave off relegation to the Conference, he went on to lead them to successive promotions. An immediate return to the Football League as Conference champions preceded the Fourth Division title in 1990–91, but Little's departure for Leicester City was followed by relegation and a succession of short-term managers. They came close to a return to the Third Division via the play-offs in 1996; on their first visit to Wembley, against Plymouth Argyle, they were beaten by a Ronnie Mauge goal.
The 1999–2000 season, the first under ambitious new chairman George Reynolds, was marked by Darlington becoming the first team to lose an FA Cup-tie and still qualify for the next round. Manchester United's involvement in the FIFA Club World Championship meant they did not enter the FA Cup. To decide who took their place, a "lucky losers" draw was held from the 20 teams knocked out in the second round; Darlington were selected, and lost their third-round tie 2–1 to Aston Villa at Villa Park. Their second Wembley appearance came later that season, facing Peterborough United in the play-off final after automatic promotion had once seemed a certainty. After a comfortable 3–0 aggregate semi-final win over Hartlepool United, Quakers arrived in confident mood, but they missed numerous chances and were again undone by a single goal, this time from Andy Clarke.
In 2002, Darlington made unsuccessful approaches to sign world-famous players Paul Gascoigne and Faustino Asprilla, and moved into their new stadium, named the Reynolds Arena, in summer 2003. Reynolds had paid the club's debts when he took over, but the cost of the stadium, partly financed with high-interest loans and built without realistic expectation of filling it, drove the club into administration six months later. Reynolds resigned as a director in January 2004 with the club under threat of imminent closure. A benefit match, featuring footballers such as Gascoigne, Bryan Robson and Kenny Dalglish, played in front of a crowd of over 14,000, raised £100,000 to help ensure survival in the short term. Despite the off-field problems, David Hodgson, in his third spell as manager, and his players produced some fine performances as the team avoided relegation.
At the end of the season, Reynolds was obliged to hand over control to the Sterling Consortium to bring the club out of administration, Stewart Davies taking over as chairman. He and his staff adopted a fan-friendly approach, in contrast to the abrasive Reynolds, before in 2006, the club was sold to property developer George Houghton. For four consecutive seasons, under Hodgson, sacked in 2006, and then under successor Dave Penney, the Quakers finished in the top half of the table, reaching the play-off semi-final in 2008 only to lose to Rochdale on penalties.
In February 2009, Darlington again went into administration, triggering an automatic 10-point deduction, without which they would have again reached the play-offs. Fundraising efforts kept the club going, but when no buyer was found for the club by a May deadline, the administrators made the majority of the first-team squad available for transfer and cut staff numbers to a minimum, leaving players Craig Liddle and Neil Maddison in temporary charge. On 20 May, Houghton returned to the club as chairman, appointed former Middlesbrough boss Colin Todd as manager, and brokered an agreement which led to the club coming out of administration and ownership passing to local businessman Raj Singh. On 7 August, the Football League confirmed that Darlington were free to compete in the 2009–10 season without any points deduction. After a poor start to the season, in which Darlington lost seven of their first nine games, Todd left the club, to be succeeded by former Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton.
The club plays at the Darlington Arena, known for sponsorship reasons as The Northern Echo Darlington Arena, a 25,500-seat stadium that opened in 2003 and has been previously been known as the Reynolds Arena, the New Stadium, the Williamson Motors Arena, the 96.6 TFM Darlington Arena and the Balfour Webnet Darlington Arena. Though the stadium can seat up to 25,500 people, the club is restricted to just 10,000 because of county and local planning regulations. From 1883 to 2003, the club played at Feethams, which was located close to the town centre. Feethams has since been demolished and is due to make way for housing.
|Kit suppliers and sponsors|
|1979||Le Coq Sportif|
|1997||On Time Sportswear||Darlington Building Society|
In 1888, Darlington's kit consisted of a shirt with black and white vertical stripes, black shorts and black socks. Apart from a period between the 1910s and 1936, when blue shorts were worn, the basic colours of the home kit have remained black and white. The shirt design has varied, from the 1888 vertical stripes, through hoops, plain white, and back to hoops again in the 1990s. Sponsors' names have appeared on Darlington's shirts since the 1980s. A table of kit manufacturers (since the 1970s) and shirt sponsors appears on the right.
For the 2009–10 season, the kit is manufactured by Errea and bears the name of sponsors Darlington Building Society. The home shirt is white with black sleeves, shorts are black, and socks are black-and-white hoops, and the away kit is all yellow with red trim. Supporters were invited to vote for the 2010–11 kit; options for the home shirt both had black-and-white hoops, while the proposed away colours were either the traditional red or sky-blue and white.
The club crest is in the form of a shield, divided diagonally into two parts; the smaller section, to the upper right, is in the club's home colour of white, the larger is red, their traditional away colour. In the white section is a stylised Quaker hat, emblematic of the major role played by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the history of the town. The larger section depicts George Stephenson's Locomotion No 1, the steam locomotive that hauled the first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825, representing the importance of the railway industry to the area. Across the bottom of the shield is a ribbon bearing the club's nickname, The Quakers, and the whole rests on a bed of oak leaves, symbolic of strength and endurance.
Darlington's supporters consider Hartlepool United as their main rivals. The feeling is reciprocated: in a 2008 survey, 95% of supporters of both clubs named the other as their bitterest rivals. The clubs, based 25 miles (40 km) apart, with Middlesbrough directly inbetween the two towns, have met 147 times (as of 2009–10), of which Hartlepool have won 60 to Darlington's 57. The meeting between the two clubs in 2007 attracted a crowd of 10,121 to the Darlington Arena, the largest attendance for that League fixture for 50 years, though the average League attendance at the stadium has declined from over 5,000 in its opening season to just under 3,000 in 2008–09.
Darlington has an official supporters' club and an active group of exiled supporters, known as DAFTS. A Supporters' Trust was founded in 2002; it established a Disabled Supporters Group, tried to maintain a working relationship between club and supporters, and, together with the Darlington Camera Club, staged a "Farewell to Feethams" exhibition in celebration of the club's longtime home. Together with the supporters' club, the trust has been actively involved in fund-raising particularly during the club's periods of administration.
Fanzines included Mission Impossible, first published in the early 1990s, and Where's The Money Gone, whose teenage editor, Dan King, along with the editor of website Darlo Uncovered, Scott Thornberry, were among several supporters banned from the ground by chairman George Reynolds for criticising the running of the club.
The team mascot was Mr Q, described as "a flat-looking cartoon man with a very big hat". In 2006, he was joined, and later replaced, by Darlo Dog, a Dalmatian. Darlo Dog was once ejected from the ground for climbing on the advertising boards in front of television cameras.
Darlington's honours include the following:
Club and player records include the following:
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
As part of the "Farewell to Feethams" celebrations, a competition in the club programme in 2003 selected the following all-time "Dream Team": Mark Prudhoe, Ron Greener, Craig Liddle, Kevan Smith, John Peverell, Andy Toman, David McLean, Alan Sproates, Alan Walsh, Marco Gabbiadini and Colin Sinclair. Liddle was chosen as captain; he had captained the team for seven of his eight seasons with the club. Gabbiadini, scorer of 53 goals in his two seasons at Darlington, was voted greatest ever player.
A. ^ The Darlington Arena was built to hold 25,000 seated spectators, yet a condition was imposed at the planning stage that "at no time should the owner of the property admit or permit the admission of more than 10,000 people to the new stadium". Capacity was for a time restricted to 6,000 for weekend events and 4,500 for midweek events unless prior written permission was granted to exceed those limits.
B. ^ Though not the first FA Cup match to be played under lights, as the club history suggests: a preliminary round replay between Kidderminster Harriers and Brierley Hill Alliance took place under floodlights on 14 September 1955, some two months before Darlington's match against Carlisle United.